Thursday, March 3, 2016

Facebook, Web Design, and Dialogue at the Writers Coffeehouse

By Dawn Byrne

Author Kelly Simmons led the February Liars Club Writers Coffeehouse in the Willow Grove PA Barnes & Noble. Her first topic? How writers can use Facebook to promote their books.

Readers are on Facebook. Build relationships with them for lasting online benefits. Ask questions and have them share answers to pull engagement to your site. On average it takes ten impressions from people who like, have heard about or bought your book, to make a sale. Word-of-mouth through social media and other sources is most valuable to prompt interest and keep it going. Too bad we can’t really control it.

Experiment only with small amounts of money. Paying to boost Facebook posts for advertising your book isn’t too beneficial. E-commerce is. Remember, Facebook controls your author page. If you do boost your posts, don’t do it to an existing one. Create a new post and make sure it’s a good one. Kelly is experimenting with targeting her audience for specific posts, narrowing her audience to get the most for her money. She’s still not sure if this works on Facebook.

Facebook ads for authors are good for branding but are a long term investment, and creating them can be difficult. Try different visuals for promoting your book, and make sure they’re sized correctly on the page or ad. Faces tend to be very eye-catching. Some graphic design sites are free, like Canva. Blurbs, reviews and endorsements are great as headliners with your book cover. Compare your book with similar authors. Ex. “If you liked…, you’ll like my book.” A ‘Buy’ button on Facebook’s ad manager isn’t as desirable as the ‘Learn More’ button. A ‘Learn More’ button gets interaction from more people.

An audience member asked about other social media. Kelly uses Twitter for real life feed, but communicates with male friends more on LinkedIn. Instagram draws mostly a young audience and women. People use Instagram on their phone to view feed because it’s pictures with only some text. Facebook and Instagram rely on visuals, which draw more attention than text, so Facebook beats Twitter in its success to promote book sales.

Touching on website design, Kelly suggests thinking visually and owning your pictures to build a website that’s unique to you. Wix and Weebly are simplistic programs for designing visuals. Squarespace is a bit harder to use. Camera+ is for smart phones. GIMP and Freeware are like Photoshop. Photoshop Elements and PicMonkey are two other options. Unsplash and iStockphoto are downloadable picture options, but taking your own pictures is best. For further help with web design check out blogs like: Amy Porterfield and Sarah Von Bargen.

Kathryn Craft shared in discussing dialogue. It should do multiple things. Go beyond suggesting context by adding subtext that shows the emotional reality of the character. Everything has context and subtext and feeds into the conversation. Janice Gable Bashman said, “Listen to what’s not being said.” Scenes and the sequels between them are now done at the same time. Use dialogue to continue the story and layer it with action. The situation comedy "Frazier" is an example of great dialogue. The two brother characters are very alike, yet their dialogue uniquely distinguishes each.

Dialect can be done in different ways. Janice handled this in her book by simply referring to a character’s accent. Some authors start with dialect and then continue the story without it. Keith Strunk said pacing and cadence of dialogue allows readers to pick up a character’s accent.

Kelly’s tricks to learn good dialogue:

  • 1. Listen to award winning radio commercials
  • 2. Watch Aaron Sorkin shows
  • 3. Read screenplays
  • 4. Write down what you hear from people

  • As the meeting broke up, Keith videotaped volunteers for the Liars Club Coffeehouse Video. We gave our names and explained why we write. Keith’s prompts calmed my nerves before I spoke. He let me view and listen to myself for assurance that I wasn’t too bad. I left the meeting happy about myself, writing and other writers. Sadly, the Coffeehouse won’t meet in March.